Gravestone restoration may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of archaeology, but for Clarkson native Richard Alvey, it is a vital branch of his field of expertise.
“I’m presenting a service to the community and preserving the past,” said Alvey, a certified archaeologist who recently returned to Grayson County in November of 2012 after 45 years of school-and-work-related travel.
A graduate of Clarkson High School, Alvey is looking to start his own, small gravestone restoration business - named Nolin River Research Group - a service for which there is great need, he said.
“I’ve been told by the [Grayson County] Historical Society that there are as many as 500 cemeteries [in the county],” Alvey said.
Because the majority of archaeological work primarily comes from government-funded projects, it is necessary for archaeologists to branch out, he said.
Alvey said he started working in gravestone restoration nearly seven years ago while employed by the Cumberland Research Group, located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Prior to his work in Tennessee, Alvey earned his Bachelor’s Degree in anthropology from Western Kentucky University in 1975, after which he earned his Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Texas Tech. University in 1997.
Alvey said he encountered his first recent, local project while doing an inventory of county Civil War-era graves, of which he has currently logged 31, as well as two from the War of 1812, and one from the American Revolution.
Alvey said while compiling this inventory, he found, in the local St. Paul Cemetery, the grave of his great-great-grandfather, Anderson Gray, a Civil War Captain who fought in the Battle of Shiloh, and saw that time and nature had taken a toll on the site.
Alvey said upon hearing of the need for grave’s restoration, Dr. Linda Mayhew, professor of mathematics at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College and Alvey’s first cousin, offered to pay for the necessary repairs.
Alvey said his process for restoring a gravestone and the time it takes to do so varies depending on the work required. In the case of Gray’s grave, Alvey said the process would take around two days to complete.
Nolin River Research Group is currently a one-man operation; however, as the business grows, Alvey said he hopes to either hire an additional employee or take on volunteers, either of whom he can train if necessary.
Individuals interested in contracting with Alvey may contact him via phone at 270-987-0482.
“I’ll come out and take a look, write a proposal, and hopefully we can reach an agreement,” he said.